By: Noah Wright
We’re just a little under 3 weeks into spring training, and we’ve had enough time to get some early impressions of some players that will break camp with teams. Today, I wanted to look at the Pittsburgh Pirates’ team thus far into spring training. They’ve had some position battles that have unfolded, and while we still have a whole 3 weeks+ until the month is over, the early impressions might be showing who’s going to win those battles. I also want to go over some surprises this spring as well.
One of the main position battles the Pirates are having is at shortstop. Erik Gonzalez has been very impressive this spring. Sure, he’s a slick fielder, however he’s only collected 3 hits+a2 walks and 1 home run against 11 strikeouts in 27 plate appearances. That is some pretty awful performance for a guy who is supposed to be the team’s starting SS.
While Erik Gonzalez might be playing himself out of playing time, Pablo Reyes might be looking at more playing time if he keeps this up for the rest of the month. Reyes has collected 8 hits, 4 of them being extra base hits (2 doubles, 2 home runs), and has stolen a base. So far, he’s looked really good to say the least. Reyes has also shown the utility man he can be, as he’s seen time at both middle infield positions, and centerfield. His performance might just put him into consideration for that starting shortstop role.
One of the more interesting storylines this spring is Jung Ho Kang. After missing all of 2017, and nearly all of 2018, Kang is looking for some redemption in the MLB. So far, Kang has shown his power potential. All 4 of his hits this spring have been home runs. Though he hasn’t played any shortstop this spring training, he also could be a consideration for the starting role at SS.
Their shortstop of the future, Cole Tucker, has done well during ST. The speedy middle infielder has already blasted 2 home runs, and has collected 7 hits+1 walk through his first 18 plate appearances. If the 22 year old starts to perform well to start the year in the minors, and our current SS options struggle, then Tucker could be a potential starter for most of the year during 2019. While he has been optioned since, his performance during Spring Training shows that there might be some decent hitting potential in this shortstop.
Some players on the roster are currently fringe players, players who sit on the borderline of 25-man and AAA. One of those fringe players is corner infielder/outfielder Patrick Kivlehan. The non-roster invitee has been one of the team’s best batters during spring. He’s had 10 hits and 2 walks in 30 plate appearances. 2 of those hits have been long balls. Given a strong spring by Kivlehan, and a weak spring by another bench player such as Jose Osuna, Kivlehan could realistically take over that 25th roster spot.
On the pitching side of things, their current solution to the 5th spot, Jordan Lyles, has not looked like he deserves the 5th rotation spot left. He’s given up 6 earned runs (7 runs in total) in 11 innings. He’s also struggled with walks, giving up 5 so far.
However, one promising starter the Bucs have is Chris Archer. Archer looks much improved from last season, and did well on Sunday against the Yankees. During that outing, Arch only gave up 2 hits in 3 innings, and struck out 4. He didn’t give up a run either. That makes it 5 shutout innings this spring for Archer.
The Bucs do have some promising players currently in spring training. All of which could play a role at some point during the 2019 season. Though there are still some holes on the team, none of them are glaringly large. A player breaking out later this spring, or a cheap FA signing could help the Bucs during the regular season.